Dad, your guiding hand on my shoulder will remain with me forever.
This weekend we celebrate fathers. Many of my friends have posted pictures of their dads on their Facebook pages. It is wonderful to see these pictures of dear friends, some of whom are no longer with us. Such wonderful memories we have! These dads were shared by all of us. When we were growing up, we knew and understood that all of these dads (and moms) were watching over us, teaching us, caring for us. We were very fortunate to live in a time when this happened.
I have not posted a picture of my dad. I think he would be uncomfortable with that. You see, my dad has lived his life mostly in the background. As one of eleven children, and being born in the middle, he was one of many. Not that he wasn't loved and respected for himself, it's just with all of those children there wasn't a lot of time for individual attention. My sister has a picture of my dad from his childhood on which my grandmother has written that she worries that he doesn't get enough time and attention. I can't tell you exactly what it says, but something like, "He worries so."
That he does! In my entire life, fifty-four years, I've never witnessed my dad concerned about himself. He has always placed everyone before him and has acted on their behalf, sometimes to the dismay of those around him. It is not uncommon for him to be late to go somewhere or do something because he has been in the midst of helping a friend or neighbor. Two years ago, on the day my dad was going into the hospital for major surgery, I looked out in the neighbor's yard to find him in a tree helping the neighbor cut down some limbs. Many are the times my mother has stood waiting at the door for him to get ready to leave for some event because he was helping someone else.
When there have been family crisis, my dad and his brother were the first ones there to care for those in need. When it was time to go to war, my father received a deferment so that he could stay home and help my grandmother care for herself and the younger siblings after my grandfather's death. Except for the time he was in Korea, he never left that 'assignment.' He remained in the community with grandma and made certain that her home was repaired, her pipes thawed, the board put on her bed for her bad back, and whatever else she needed help with (not that she asked for help a lot).
But even with all the assistance he gave to others, Dad was always there for his four children. I'm pretty sure he wasn't thrilled about all of the music concerts and programs he attended on my behalf. But he was there for every one of them. He coached my brothers' baseball teams and attended every football game, basketball game, and even a few wrestling matches. He was there for my sister's music programs and all of her activities. He never missed anything that we did.
As I watched this video, I thought of the first time I remember fishing with my dad. At that time, it was just the three of us, before my sister was born so we were about the ages of 6, 4, and 3. Fishing is challenging with children at any time, but fishing with kids of this age has to be a daunting task. Of course, I don't know how much fishing we actually did, but I remember him showing me how to bait my hook and cast it into the water. And then doing the same thing for my brothers. I remember him sitting and watching us and laughing at the antics of my brothers and me. We didn't bring many fish home that night, but he didn't seem to mind.
Now that I am a parent of a young man who has not had the advantage of a father who had time for him, I appreciate so much more the gift my dad gave and continues to give to me. I never doubt that when I need him, he will be there. Even when he is not physically with me, he is with me in my heart and in my head. His words ring clearly now and forever and his lessons will never be forgotten.
I laughed this past weekend at our family reunion when I watched my dad and his brother telling each other not to be so stubborn. My cousins and I sitting around the table on the patio with them all grinned at each other and understood. Yes, they are stubborn or as my uncle labeled it, determined. And, yes, that gene has been passed on to my generation and to the next. There are times when this trait is maddening, but I believe there are more times when it's a very good thing.
My dad has spent his life determined to help whomever he can. He has spent his life determined to put himself last and everyone else before him. He has spent his life determined to love each and every one of us in the best way he knew how. In my estimation, he has been successful at each of these goals and more than that, he has taught his children and his grandchildren the same lesson. He is respected and loved for being just who he is.
On this Father's Day, I don't have much to give my dad. He would tell me not to 'waste' my money and that he doesn't need anything, so I won't do that, but I can give him this. I can give him all of my love and all of my respect.
Thank you, Dad! I love you!
Thank you, Dad! I love you!